George Takei on Same-Sex Marriage, Why ‘Star Trek’ Fans Are Gay Friendly

George Takei Web Series It Takes
Suzi Pratt/Getty Images

George Takei has been a leading advocate for LGBT rights since he announced to the world he was a gay man in 2005. Best known for his role playing Starship Enterprise helmsman Hikaru Sulu in the beloved “Star Trek” TV series and through six films, Takei reports he’s more in demand than ever after kicking open the closet door.

Variety spoke with the actor in the weeks leading up to the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on Friday that legalizes gay marriage nationwide. At the time, Takei, who is married to Brad Altman, said he was “optimistic” the court would endorse same-sex couples’ right to wed. He also talked about his years in the closet and the reaction “Star Trek” fans had to the news he was a gay man.

Were you hesitant to come out of the closet?

George Takei: I was closeted most of my adult life and most of my career, because I wanted to work passionately and I loved acting, and I knew I could’t have that if I was out. When I was a teenager, the biggest heartthrob was Tab Hunter. He was in every movie out of Warner Bros. until he was exposed as gay and his career faded. That was an object lesson. I knew I must protect my sexual orientation.

When I came out, I was 68 and I was totally prepared for my career to recede when I spoke to the press for the first time. What happened after that blew me away. I started getting more offers. My career blossomed. I got more guest shots as gay George Takei than ever, and I got an offer from Howard Stern to be his official announcer.

How did “Star Trek” fans react to the news you were gay?

“Star Trek” fans totally accepted my sexual orientation. There are a great number of LGBT people across “Star Trek” fandom. The show always appealed to people that were different — the geeks and the nerds, and the people who felt they were not quite a part of society, sometimes because they may have been gay or lesbian.

“Star Trek” is about acceptance and the strength of the Starship Enterprise is that it embraces diversity in all its forms.

Did your “Star Trek” co-stars know you were gay?

I never made a statement, but when you’re working on a series like “Star Trek,” at the end of the week you have cast wrap parties. The beers are rolled out and the pizza is brought in. The men would bring wives and the women would bring husbands, and I’d bring a buddy. Show business people are sophisticated. They knew I was gay and they liked me and were supportive of me, but they didn’t make a big thing of it because they knew at the time it could be destructive for me.

I knew they knew because one day after getting into makeup, I was standing around the coffee urn chitchatting with Walter Koenig [Pavel Chekov] and he gestured for me to turn around. Behind me there was this extra coming in, a drop dead gorgeous guy wearing a tight Star Fleet uniform. My heart stopped, my jaw dropped, and I turned back around and Walter was grinning and he gave me a wink. He was helping me out and he didn’t want me to miss this gorgeous guy, because he was my friend.

How have society’s attitudes changed in the years since you came out?

There’s been so much progress. When Brad and I got married in 2008, it got a lot of attention. And all the attention was over the fact that we were two men, but people were hardly conscious of the fact that we were entering into an interracial marriage. That’s wonderful, because it was only 50 years ago with Loving v. Virginia that interracial marriages were made legal.

I’m hopeful that in 50 or more years, the fact that two men or two women or somebody who was a man marries another woman or a man as a woman, will be as unremarkable as interracial marriages are today.

What does the enormous shifts in attitudes in favor of gay rights and gay marriage say about the health of our democracy?

As a child I was incarcerated for being Japanese American. It was one of the most egregious violations of civil liberties in history, but American citizens during World War II got swept up in this anti-Japanese hysteria.

Later as a teenager, I’d read about our democracy and I couldn’t relate to it because I remembered my childhood imprisonment. I had to have my mind changed about American democracy by my father. He said that our democracy is only as great as its people can be, but it’s also as fallible as its people. He described it as a work in progress.

The arc of our history is toward more equality being expanded to more and more people. When our nation was founded, women had no rights, black people had no rights. Because there were determined women and fair-minded men, women are running for public office and equality has been expanded. We have African-Americans in the halls of Congress and in the White House. That’s the arc that LGBT people are experiencing, towards that day when we’re recognized as full-class citizens who have all the rights we’re entitled to as Americans.

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 11

Leave a Reply

11 Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Same Sex Marriage & Other Fables.

    If there ever was an example of society living out a fairy tale, it is entailed in the current fury about marriage. What fairy tale? ‘The Emperor’s New Cothes’, here summarized by Widipedia:

    “A vain Emperor who cares about nothing except wearing and displaying clothes hires two swindlers who promise him the finest, best suit of clothes from a fabric invisible to anyone who is unfit for his position or “hopelessly stupid”. The Emperor’s ministers cannot see the clothing themselves, but pretend that they can for fear of appearing unfit for their positions and the Emperor does the same. Finally the swindlers report that the suit is finished, they mime dressing him and the Emperor marches in procession before his subjects. The townsfolk play along with the pretense, not wanting to appear unfit for their positions or stupid. Then a child in the crowd, too young to understand the desirability of keeping up the pretense, blurts out that the Emperor is wearing nothing at all and the cry is taken up by others. The Emperor cringes, suspects the assertion is true, but continues the procession.”

    We scoff at the idea that any real culture would fall for such an obvious lie, but consider this: Is it not extreme denial to claim that a union between opposite sexes is the same as one between those of the same sex?

    First, does that opposite sex union not create complexities that a same sex couple will never encounter? How can a sophisticated and supposidly science based society deny just the distinctions between brain and hormoal functions of males and females?

    Second, how can any rational person agree that a duplicate sex couple is just as complementary as a marriage between a man and woman? How is it possible that we deny the obvious physical and physcological differences that are combined in marriage?

    Or especially profound? Marriage normally bears the fruit of a husband and wife blended in a child. In fact, they normally need protection NOT to procreate (so much for the ‘demand’ of procreation…). A same sex couple on the other hand? Will NEVER mutually procreate.

    Like the fable, it is a child that exposes our astounding denial. They will always be able to distinguish between two couples when one is mom and dad.

    • Phil says:

      Hypocrite.

    • Rocio says:

      What does God say about adultery or stealing another man’s wife? Apparently, that’s how you show your respect for the sanctity of marriage and got you removed ad pastor from a Hawaiian church. Shut your fucking mouth, you bigoted hypocrite.

  2. howard beck says:

    Sorry but Star Trek is not Liberal. Not today’s liberalism anyway. It’s the liberalism of JFK where you show strength if needed not your back as you run away.

  3. cadavra says:

    It’s not a surprise that Star Trek fans are accepting. The show was always a progressive beacon in its era–let’s not forget it gave us TV’s first inter-racial kiss–and that optimism continues to this day.

  4. Paul Harris says:

    So many of those opposed to liberty and justice for ALL are PLIFs*

    *People Living In Fear, a reference to conservative or
    fundamentalist followers of any religion that leads them to be fearful of any
    questioning of their religious doctrine or to be open to creative, new ideas.
    Because psychologically fear is such a crippling emotion, psychologically
    healthy people tend to try and control and recognize this in themselves. Those
    who don’t tend to rely on more dictatorial or authoritarian leaders whether
    they be in the form of a political leader or their own chosen God.

    Author, “Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina”

  5. NoCoolAtAll says:

    Lol to be honest this is BS, how can gays and lesbians have equal rights as straight people? Thats an anomaly which should be cured not advertised as something awesome! The mankind is not going to last long in this way!

  6. Ramsey says:

    He’s still alive?

  7. Quads says:

    I think George has been sniffin’ glue.

  8. TONY says:

    yeah well….It didnt really matter if Sulu was gay…I saw him on TV and said…well ok…It doesnt matter.

More Film News from Variety

Loading